The power of stigma

There’s no doubt about it, over the last few years we have come a long way to create a broader awareness of domestic and family violence (DFV). With coverage in the media, government initiatives and community activities, many people understand the impact of DFV and its prevalence within society.

Yet sadly, the stigma still exists. It remains an uncomfortable topic that is often swept under the carpet as people don’t want to talk about it. I have been in situations (both professionally and socially) where I have raised the subject of DFV and others have recoiled and closed up. It is still an issue that most people simply cannot face.

Five years ago when I was living in a DFV situation, the stigma was even worse. My issues were taboo. I opened up to a handful of people to explain what was happening at home and I was met with avoidance, ‘humorous’ and thoughtless remarks and, even worse, ambivalence. The reaction of others to my sad truth compounded my sense of isolation and hopelessness. It would have made an enormous difference if I had been able to be open about DFV, to share my story, and receive compassion and help.

It’s the secrecy and stigma of DFV that feeds its power. If a victim or survivor of DFV feels they can speak out, it will enable them to 1. get support, 2. make leaving easier, and 3. put the spotlight and shame on the perpetrator.

The benefits of open conversation

I am not suggesting that DFV victims and survivors should shout from the rooftops about their experience (unless they choose to do so). But they should feel comfortable to start a conversation with those they trust and be able to approach people who can provide the much-needed support without either party feeling awkward or uncomfortable.

If we suspect someone we know is going through DFV, it would make a very positive difference if we could start a sensitive conversation to bring things out in the open and to enable the victim to feel nurtured and supported.

Workhaven’s ethos and approach

Our main aim is to increase understanding and awareness of DFV and provide support to victims to enable them to become survivors. We believe if we remove the stigma, we will see a positive shift in the fight against DFV.

We offer services to develop workplace champions who can start conversations and link victims and survivors to the resources they need. We also work with organisations to create communication strategies for their workplace and their customers to bring this difficult topic out in to the open. For more information about Workhaven, please visit